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Defining tax breaks down

Remember the days when the air was filled with promises from the statewide leadership that they would cut property taxes by one-third, maybe even one-half? Reality can be such a bummer sometimes.

Texas property owners would get a small tax break next year, with another cut coming in 2007 if voters approve a statewide property tax, under the latest version of the Senate’s school finance plan unveiled Monday.

The plan would reduce taxes for school maintenance and operations by 20 cents to $1.30 per $100 assessed valuation next year. In 2007, property owners would see another 20-cent reduction to $1.10 if a constitutional amendment authorizing a statewide property tax passes.

If the amendment fails, the tax rate would remain at $1.30.

In January, senators promised to lower property taxes from the current $1.50 to $1. Senate leaders said they still would like to provide the full 50-cent reduction but may not be able to fund the final 10 cents until 2008.

As you know, I’m not particularly thrilled with the Lege finding another way to hamstring its own ability to fund government services, so my heart isn’t exactly breaking at this news. Doesn’t mean I can’t needle them about overpromising and underdelivering, however.

The finance committee still is working on the details of a business and sales tax plan to pay for the property tax cut and education spending boost. [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve] Ogden said the long-awaited bill might be discussed by the committee on Friday.

Which means that it’ll be time for all the oxen that are in sight to be gored by whatever expansion or increase lurks in the new business and sales tax plan to start lobbying to be spared the pain of any new burden, for the good of the affected industry, the children, and the very future of our way of life. We’ll talk again about how viable those property tax reductions are after the inevitable knee-buckling begins.

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One Comment

  1. Jim D says:

    Here’s a crazy thought: Explicitly authorize split-rate property taxation, like the kind used in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, PA and also in Hawaii.

    Split-rate taxes the real property at one rate and the tangible property at another, lower one. The result is that most people get a tax cut and it incentivizes urban renewal (because sitting on valuable undeveloped land is highly discouraged under such a regime.)